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Written by Karen McGuffin   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 00:00

 

Thousands of bright lights filled the sky surrounding the balloons

 

One of the most vivid memories I have as a child was that I was afraid

of the dark. Realizing this, mom would come into my room after I had

gone to bed and sit next to me, reassuring me that I was going to be

ok, she would tell me I wasn't alone, that she would be in the next

room and if I needed her all I had to do was call out her name and she

would be there. She always made sure she left my door open just a bit

and left the hall light on for me. It always worked, I could go to

sleep and not be afraid.

 

My mom was getting ready to retire, she had so many plans. She was going

sell her home, and move to Big Bear California with my sister Cindy and

her family. She was so excited to be getting away from my father, and

to start a new chapter in her life, she was closing the book and

writing a final end to her life with Don. All of us girls were happy

for Mom, even though we knew we wouldn't see her as often we knew that

it was the best thing for her. Mom was finally going to get to live for

herself, she would be free from working (although we knew she would

probably find a part time job in Big Bear, she wouldn't be able to

handle sitting around!) but most importantly she wouldn't be with in

arms length of Don, he would have to travel a great distance to harass

her.

 

The day Mom retired, her work gave her a big going away party. My sister

Teresa and I were both asked to come and be part of the celebration of

my moms dedicated work with the residents. I was excited to go and to

meet these wonderful people my mom talked about so much. I have to say

it was an experience that I will never forget! The residents were all

gathered around the room, and each one would stand and look my mom and

my sister and I in the eye, each one of them telling of how my mom had

touched their life, how much better they enjoyed living their own life

because of her. She touched each and every one of them. I have never

felt so much pride for her as I did at that moment. I was very proud to

be my mom's daughter.

 

It was almost time for my mom to move, all the plans had been made. The

U-Haul was paid for; Cindy was ready to come get her. Mom had planned a

big get together which included all of us girls, our family, all of us

were going to be together once more to go on a ride down the Columbia

River on the Stern Wheeler. There was just one more thing that had to

be done before she could go, and it would prove to be the last thing

she ever did.

 

Mom was to have surgery on Monday, just a simple operation, she had a

tumour on her ovary that needed to be removed, and a small hernia on her

belly button. The doctor reassured us that this was a routine operation

and mom would be well on her way to recovering in a few days.

 

While in the waiting room my Aunt Betty, Teresa and I tried to keep our

thoughts positive. We talked and laughed about old times, held hands,

tired to act like everything was ok. The time was going so slowly, and

as each minute passed I was getting more nervous, I tried to act like

nothing was wrong but I had this bad feeling deep inside me, I knew

something was wrong.

 

The doctor finally came out and told us the operation went fine and Mom

was in recovery, he said that there was a small problem with the

hernia, he explained that it was wrapped around the small intestine,

but he assured us everything was fine, that mom was doing good and we

could go see her in just a little while. When Teresa and I were allowed

to go into her room I was horrified, she was still asleep but her skin

looked gray, ashen. To be honest she looked dead to me. I don't know

what Teresa was thinking but I wasn't thinking good thoughts. It scared

me to see her look like that, I have seen people come out of recovery,

and they didn't look the way my mom did. My heart sank, the feeling I

had gotten in the waiting room was even more prominent now then it was.

Mom was having a difficult time coming out of the anaesthesia, the nurse

was telling us to make sure we woke her up and keep her awake.

 

In the following days mom just didn't look like herself, her eyes were

glassed over, she would stare off in the distance with an expression I

cant quite explain, it was if we weren't there, she had trouble

speaking and focusing on what we were talking about, she wasn't eating,

wasn't drinking any liquids, and not able to walk but a few feet.

Teresa and I were very concerned.

 

When Teresa and I came to visit as we walked into the room Mom was

asleep, we walked in and sat down. I was on one side of Mom and Teresa

on the other side of her We sat there quietly just watching her sleep,

and at some point she had woken up, she looked at Teresa and I and

smiled (it was the most coherent I had seen her since before the

surgery) she reached her hands between the rails and took hold of both

our hands, squeezing them gently she whispered that she loved us. At

that very moment when I looked into her eyes I saw something, it was as

if she knew she wasn't going to be here much longer, the color in her

face returned, she looked at peace. I didn't understand what was

happening at the time, but as I look back I think I know the answer.

 

It was time for Mom to be released from the hospital, and for the first

time ever MOM wasn't ready to leave the hospital. I remember when I got

there to pick her up I was sure she would be dressed, out of bed and

ready to run out the door to get home, but she wasn't, she was still in

bed, still in her robe. She wasn't ready at all, she didn't want to go,

but the doctor said she had to go home.

 

As soon as we got to her house, she was ready for bed, she called my

Father and told him she was fine, that she wanted to go to bed and that

she would talk to him the next day. I walked Mom into her room and

helped her get undressed and into her pyjamas, she laid down, I covered

her up and gave her a kiss, told her I loved her and that I would leave

the door open so if she needed anything I would be right there for her,

all she had to do was call my name and I would be there. She smiled at

me, told me she loved me, and said if she needed anything she would

call for me. As I walked out the room, I looked back at her and felt a

sudden bit of anxiety, ignoring the feeling that came over me I shut

her door just a little walked out of the room and sat down in the

living room. That was the last time I saw my Mom alive, when I went in

to check on her awhile later she had passed.

 

I have had a very difficult time dealing with her death, I have felt so

much guilt for not going and checking on her sooner, have felt like I

should have been able to do something. Even though the autopsy report

confirmed she died of a massive blood clot that had formed in the

hernia I still feel responsible for not doing anything.

 

This last Saturday (6 months after her death) was the first time that I

was able to go visit her gravesite. My boyfriend John drove me up

there. It was an overcast day, the sky was gray, and the ground was wet

from the rain. I brought with me a bouquet of carnations, a card, and

balloons. My plan was to tie the balloons to the card and let them go.

I had four balloons, one for each of us girls. I was nervous about

being there, knowing I would break down when I saw her headstone. I

stood there with John at my side looking down at the beautiful marble

that had her name inscribed, I knelt and felt the letters as I ran my

fingers across the cold smooth stone, tears rolling down my face I

stood up and released the balloons. The card was too heavy; they didn't

go anywhere, so I untied them and was just going to release the

balloons. As I let go and they gently floated up into the sky John and

I watched, higher and higher they went, and I felt a sudden calmness

come over me. I was watching these balloons go higher into the sky I

saw something else; there was these little bright flashes of light

surrounding the balloons. There were thousands of them. I thought I was

seeing things so I looked away and rubbed my eyes, but when I looked

back up in the sky, there they were. We got back in the car and was

ready to leave and I told John what I saw, I was a little afraid he

would think I was crazy, and then he told me he saw the same thing! I

wasn't crazy after all, it really happened. It was as if my Mom had

turned the lights back on for me, reminding me not to be afraid.

 

 
 

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